What are the limits of online privacy and law enforcement? Can we clearly define them, or is this a vague and blurred area of debate?

The fact is that as technology advances, the real and the virtual worlds are increasingly converging. Actions (or inactions) in the cyberspace introduce risks and threats for people, especially the most vulnerable ones, i.e. children and elders. Criminals have moved their operations in the cyber realm, becoming more sophisticated and advanced as well as transforming technology into adversarial weapons.

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Professionals in the cyber industry, tech companies, academics, and law enforcement are trying to combat the increased cyber criminality, but at the same time, they are compelled to address new and emerging ethical dilemmas. How can we balance systems’ security, humans’ privacy, and society’s safety?

In the trenches of encryption

Encryption, and especially end-to-end encryption, is an important feature both for protecting data at rest and in transit over the internet as well as for preserving the confidentiality and privacy of online communications over messaging apps. However, encryption is leveraged by criminals as well as they try to the conceal their nefarious purposes whether it is terrorist acts or the circulation of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM).

We have seen many ‘episodes’ in the series of encryption debates. Recently, Apple added a new chapter. Apple has announced that future versions of its operating system for iPhones, iPads, Watches, and Macs will scan for CSAM. This move was met with skepticism and criticism by cybersecurity and privacy professionals alike. As Graham Cluley wrote, “many in the cybersecurity community are concerned that systems like this could be misused.”

As tech companies have received considerable pressure from law enforcement agencies and governments to open a backdoor into their systems, privacy and civil society groups fear (Read more...)